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Plant-Based Weight Gain? 5 Common Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Written by Ali Donahue
Plant-Based Weight Gain? 5 Common Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Quick Take

Started a plant-based diet for weight loss only to struggle with weight gain instead? This is not uncommon. While plant-based foods often help people shed pounds, a few common mistakes could be tripping up your weight loss goals. Luckily, there are simple solutions!

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On This Page

Plant-Based Does Not Equal Fat-Free

Stop Drinking Your Calories

Is Your Salad Making You Gain Weight?

When Is a Calorie Not a Calorie?

Beware of Artificial Sweeteners

Key Takeaways

5 Reasons for Plant-Based Weight Gain (and How to Fix Them!)

1. Plant-Based Does Not Equal Fat-Free


Avocados, nuts, and seeds are an important part of a healthy plant-based diet; they're filled with essential minerals and fatty acids, necessary for normal brain function. But, they also have a high fat content, making them the primary suspects for plant-baed weight gain on an otherwise balanced diet.

The Fix

If you are worried that your weight is slowly getting out of your control, try to limit or eliminate fatty foods from your diet. You can easily swap vegetables and fruit to snack on instead of nuts. And if you haven't already, eliminate any processed oil consumption, including extra virgin olive oil.  With nine calories per gram (or 120 calories per tablespoon!), oils are notorious for vegan weight gain. (In comparison, carbohydrates and protein only offer four calories per gram.)  

2. Stop Drinking Your Calories


Smoothies are a quick, filling way to get your morning calories in, especially if you’re in a hurry. They also make a delicious afternoon snack. But not all smoothies are the same, nutritionally speaking or from a weight loss standpoint.  It can be very tempting to add everything from your pantry that seems even remotely healthy to your smoothie: chia seeds, sunflower seeds, some peanut butter, of course, avocado, and an orchard’s worth of fruit.  Before you know it, your healthy snack or low-calorie breakfast is now calorically equivalent to a four-course meal.

Also, research shows liquids don't always make us feel as satiated as solid foods, so you can still feel hungry after a smoothie, even if it was calorie and nutrient–dense. 

The Fix

Chewing makes you feel full quicker than drinking, so it is best to avoid replacing your meals with smoothies.  If, however, you still fancy a smoothie once in a while, focus on using vegetables and leafy greens as the main ingredients, and then balance the flavor out with a small quantity of fruit, preferably berries. Avoid adding foods high in calories unless you know that your smoothie will be replacing a full meal. Here are more tips on building the ultimate healthy vegan smoothie.

3. Is Your Salad Making You Gain Weight

caesar salad

I was in a restaurant with friends and one of them ordered a caesar salad. When it arrived I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The tiniest portion of lettuce, a huge chicken breast, shaved cheese, croutons, and a heap of dressing. At what point does it stop being a salad? Just because there’s lettuce (or any other type of leafy green) in it, it doesn’t mean it's healthy. On the contrary, if your salad is drenched in high-fat dressings, this could be sabotaging your weight loss goals. Frustrating, I know!

The Fix

When building your salad, start with a healthy amount of different types of salad greens, such as romaine lettuce, kale, and arugula, and avoid topping it off with fatty foods. When it’s time to add the dressing, even a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon can elevate the flavors; there’s no need for oil-based dressings.

Another alternative for a healthy dressing is the 3-2-1 dressing by Jane Esselstyn, which consists of — as the name suggests — three parts vinegar, such as balsamic, two parts dijon mustard, and one part maple syrup.

Rather not make your own oil-free dressing? Try MamaSezz Pecan Balsamic Dressing.

4. When Is a Calorie Not a Calorie?

Yes, not all calories are created equally; 200 calories of french fries are definitely not the same nutritionally as 200 calories of steamed broccoli. But if plant-based weight gain is a problem for you, it may be time to look at your calorie consumption and take steps to increase you energy expenditure. 

The Fix

There are two ways you can go about here: you can either reduce your calorie intake or increase your physical activity. Studies have shown that 150 minutes of exercise per week (as little are thirty minutes of moderate activity, five times per week) can have drastic and positive effects on your health. 

If 150 minutes of exercise per week sound too laborious, you can simply decrease your portions.  However, how amazing will that plant-based brownie taste after half an hour of light jogging or an hour long walk?

5. Beware of Artificial Sweeteners


You may think substituting sugar in your coffee with an artificial sweetener is the smart thing to do if you're trying a plant-based diet for weight loss, but in reality, that Sucralose packet probably isn't the best choice. Studies show artificial sweeteners can actually act counterintuitively, by stimulating your appetite, causing you to eat more.

The Fix

If you simply cannot take your coffee without sugar, no worries. Baby steps! Start by reducing the amount of sugar you add in your coffee. You can reduce it slowly, in a short, half-a-teaspoon-a-day fashion, until one day you won’t need it anymore. 

What about baked goods and vegan desserts? There are natural plant-based sweeteners you can try instead. Unlike refined sugars, the fiber in the whole food sweeteners regulates the way your body processes the natural sugar and lets you use the energy in a more sustainable way; not to mention there's none of the chronic inflammation so many people struggle with when they eat lots of refined sugars.

Key Takeaways

  • Many people turn to a plant-based diet for weight loss (in addition to its plentiful health benefits). But there are some common mistakes people make that lead to plant-based weight gain.
  • Focus and fill up on low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods.
  • Stop drinking your calories.
  • Beware of hidden, salad ingredients and dressings that could be hindering your progress
  • Moving your body more may be necessary if you're worried about vegan weight gain.
  • Stay away from artificial sweeteners as they mess up with the natural satiety signals of your body.
  • If all else fails, it would be a good idea to check for any underlying health issues, such as a hormonal imbalance that could be affecting your weight!



Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.


If you are struggling to come up with healthy, weight-loss-promoting meals, why don’t you leave the task up to MamaSezz? The Weight Loss bundle is a structured, 7-day weight loss program to help you lose the weight for good!

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